Open, Lifewide Learning: a Vision

Littlejohn, Allison; Falconer, Isobel and McGill, Lou (2014). Open, Lifewide Learning: a Vision. In: Littlejohn, Allison and Pegler, Chris eds. Reusing Open Resources: Learning in Open Networks for Work, Life and Education. Abingdon: Routledge.



Open lifewide learning is critical in a world where knowledge, professions and practices are continually changing. It bridges all areas of life including education, work or general interest. Examples are becoming commonplace and are not always recognised as learning: Reviewing new concepts in an open course, building fresh ideas at work through reading and commenting on a blog, or coding an algorithm within an open source community. A commonality across these examples is that the learner, rather than a teacher or instructor, is the active agent.
While there is evidence that society is moving towards open lifewide learning, this chapter provides a vision of its potential over the coming decade, rather than examining current practice. It is suited to a world that has seen a radical change in cultural perceptions of learner agency and learner-teacher roles, associated with changes in technology. Learners are autonomous and able to make choices about their own learning. After completing compulsory education, the focus of each learner ideally moves from learning pre-defined knowledge to filling gaps between areas of knowledge, integrating different areas of expertise, as well as learning new knowledge. People do not turn automatically to formal institutions for large blocks of learning. Instead they consider it natural to make use of open learning resources and open courses, making their own decisions about what to learn, when and how. Learners naturally employ open learning practices, creating new knowledge for future learners to benefit from. They expect to contribute to the learning of others as well as learning themselves, viewing themselves as the experts in their own situation. In some cases they may elect to take a short formal course, but this is always for a specific reason rather than as a cultural norm. Rather than managing multiple identities in the different groups/communities to which they belong, they see their unique identity as a unifying factor that integrates their activities in various groups, including work and leisure groups, that they move easily between. In doing so they accrue new knowledge, integrating it with their current understanding, such that their expertise changes dynamically to match their current needs.

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